Research Highlights: Earthworms can enrich the soil, faster than previously thought


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Earthworms can enrich the soil, faster than previously thought

  • Nutrient cycling is a process by which nutrients are transferred from the environment to living organisms and back to the environment.
  • Usually, nutrient cycling involving soil decomposers, such as earthworms, is slow and cumulative.
  • Researchers show that it is possible to have a rapid movement of nitrogen and carbon from earthworms to plants and herbivores.
  • They performed two experiments, one under a laboratory and the other in the field.
  • Researchers used chemical tracers to monitor the movement of nutrients from earthworms to the soil, plant seedlings, and sap-sucking bugs.
  • Nitrogen and carbon derived from the earthworms were obtained by the bugs after only two hours under laboratory conditions, and nitrogen after 24 hours in the field.
  • Researchers speculated that the source of this nitrogen and carbon was the earthworms’ labeled mucus on their skin.
  • Based on the rapid tracer appearance in herbivores, researchers suggest that an amino acid compound excreted by earthworms may have been involved.
  • The results suggest a previously unknown shortcut in the nitrogen and carbon cycle.

Source:

Ganna S. Shutenko, G. S. Shutenko, Walter S. Andriuzzi, W. S. Andriuzzi, Jens Dyckmans, J. Dyckmans, Yu Luo, Y. Luo, Thomas L. Wilkinson, T. L. Wilkinson, & Olaf Schmidt, O. Schmidt. (2022). Rapid transfer of C and N excreted by decomposer soil animals to plants and above-ground herbivores. Soil biology & biochemistry, 166, 108582. doi: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2022.108582

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